Morone saxatilis

striped bass



Type Locality

New York (Walbaum 1792).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Morone: name of unknown origin; saxatilis: living among rocks (Ross 2001).



Perca saxatilis Walbaum 1792:330

Labrax lineatus Wailes 1854:334

Roccus saxatilis Cook 1959:167; Caldwell 1966:220.



Maximum size: 2000 mm TL (Burgess 1980).


Coloration: Stripes along side usually continuous (Hubbs et al. 1991); dorsum is greenish or bluish above, sides are silvery, belly is white (Miller and Robison 2004).


Teeth count: Teeth in two parallel patches on back of tongue (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Counts: 11-13 anal fin soft rays (Texas; Hubbs et al. 1991); 63-72 lateral line scales, average +66 (in the Gulf Coast race); 54-67 lateral line scales (Atlantic Coast race);  21-23 gillrakers; 11-13 (9-14) dorsal rays; 10-11 (8-12) dorsal spines; 3 anal spines (young may only have 2; Mansueti 1958; Ross 2001); 14-16 (13-17) pectoral rays (Brown 1965; Barkuloo 1970; Ross 2001).


Body shape: Elongate and moderately compressed; back slightly arches; nape not noticeably depressed; gape to middle of eye (Hardy 1978). Body depth contained more than three times in standard length (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Dorsal fins separated; second anal fin spine much shorter than third (Hubbs et al. 1991); gill rakers long and slender (older specimens with fewer well-developed gill rakers than younger specimens); 2 sharp spines on margin of opercle; margin of preopercle clearly serrate. Scales extend onto all fins except spinous dorsal (Hardy 1978).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Ranges along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts west to near Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: This species is not native to the state; however, it has been widely stocked and maintains significant fishery in many reservoirs (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) listed the following drainage unit for distribution of Morone saxatilis in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River).


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in the southern United States are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Morone saxatilis is a marine and estuarine coastal species that moves far upstream in rivers during spawning migrations; widely introduced into lakes and impoundments (Hardy 1978; Burgess 1980); schooling species (Hardy 1978).


Mesohabitat: Juveniles prefer shallow areas over substrates ranging from sand to rock, and are rarely found in areas with soft mud substrates; adult populations in inshore areas utilize many different substrates, including rock, boulder, gravel, sand, detritus, grass, moss, and mussel beds (Hill et al. 1989). In Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas, young fish occurred more frequently around open, wave-exposed shorelines than in more protected coves of reservoirs (Matthews et al. 1992; Ross 2001). Large fish display a lower temperature tolerance than do smaller fish, avoiding water temperatures greater than 22°C while smaller fish continue to occupy water temperatures up to 29°C, with optimal growth at 25°C. During the summer, large fish occupy deeper water with lower temperatures; however low oxygen levels prevent their presence in the coldest water near the bottom. As a result, during the summer, large individuals are found in a region immediately above the thermocline (area where the water temperature changes quickly and below which oxygen levels are low; Cox and Coutant 1981; Coutant 1985; Matthews et al. 1985, 1989; Ross 2001). In Lake Whitney, a Texas reservoir, distribution of fish in summer was limited to an area near the dam, where fish survived temperatures up to 29 degrees; in summer, fish were usually found in the coolest water available (27-29 degrees C) which contained adequate dissolved oxygen (>4.0 mg/L); in winter fish occupied the warmest water (7.4-8.8 degrees C); during the rest of the year, fish were distributed throughout available water temperatures (Farquhar and Gutreuter 1989). Fish may congregate in cooler, spring-fed tributaries of reservoirs when the water temperature rises above 27°C in main reservoir (Moss 1985). Cheek et al. (1985) reported that distribution of fish in Watts Bar Reservoir, Tennessee was related to temperature and dissolved oxygen; consequently fish occupied cooler areas of the reservoir during the summer. Matthews et al. (1985) noted that summer die-offs may occur (especially during July-September) if sufficient, oxygenated water is not available. Gulf Coast race is apparently more tolerant of high temperatures than the Atlantic Coast race (Wooley and Crateau 1983). Species is able to withstand abrupt temperature and salinity changes; salinity range 0.0-35.0 ppt (Hardy 1978).



Spawning season: In the spring, with exact timing dependant upon water temperature (Lewis 1962; Burgess 1980). In the southeast and Gulf Coast region, spawning occurs at water temperatures between 14-21°C, and may begin in mid-February and continue until April (Hardy 1978; Hill et al. 1989).


Spawning location: Occurs in upstream portions of rivers above tidal influence (Burgess 1980). Species frequently spawns in streams with strong turbulent flows with substrate of rock or rock and fine gravel (Raney 1952; Mansueti and Hollis 1963; Sublette et al. 1990).


Reproductive strategy: Nonguarders; open substratum spawners; phytolithophils – nonobligatory plant spawners that deposit eggs on submerged items, have late hatching larvae with cement glands in free embryos, have larvae with moderately developed respiratory structures, and have larvae that are photophobic (Balon 1981; Simon 1999). Spawning behavior is characterized by brief peaks of surface activity; female often surrounded by several males; eggs broadcast loosely into the water, where fertilization occurs (Hill et al. 1989). Spawning by a female is likely completed within a few hours (Lewis and Bonner 1966).


Fecundity: High numbers of eggs produced, ranging from 15,000 eggs in small fish to 40.5 million eggs in a 14.5 kg fish (Hill et al. 1989). A mature female can produce, on average, 80,000 eggs per each 0.5 kg body weight (Lewis and Bonner 1966). Raney (1952) reported fecundity ranging from 14,000-3,220,000 eggs. Mature eggs are 1.0-1.5 mm in diameter; after spawning, eggs may remain viable for about 1 hour prior to fertilization (Hill et al. 1989). Fertilized eggs are spherical, non-adhesive, semi-buoyant, nearly transparent; characterized by a single large oil globule, a lightly granulated yolk mass, a wide perivitelline space, and a clear, tough chorion (Hardy 1978; Setzler et al. 1980; Hill et al. 1989).  After water hardening, eggs are 2.4-3.9 mm in diameter and semi-buoyant; hatching occurs in 2-3 days after fertilization depending on water temperature (Johnson and Koo 1975). Best hatches at 19.9-20.5 degrees C; very few hatch at extremes of 11.1 and 26.6 degrees C (Hardy 1978). Egg survival dependent upon sufficient water flow to keep eggs suspended in water column (Mansueti 1958). In response to localized river discharge, different amounts of oil globules (which provide buoyancy) have apparently evolved in different stocks of this species (Hill et al. 1989). Bayless (1968) noted that eggs settling on a relatively coarse substrata, where there is not extensive siltation, will also hatch;  although, few eggs or none at all hatch when on silt, silty clay, or mud-detritus.


Age/size at maturation:  Males reach maturity in their second year and females in their third year (Breder 1966; Hardy 1978); females mature at a minimum length of 432 mm, and males at a minimum length of 174 mm. Maturity does vary among regions (Hardy 1978).


Migration: Populations inhabiting the Gulf coastal drainage are potadromous, as opposed to those along the Atlantic Coast which have anadromous life cycles. Potadromous populations have reduced migrations or limit migrations to freshwater, and move upstream or downstream to a spawning location (Raney 1952; Ross 2001). In autumn, most fish in Lake Whitney, Texas, moved up the reservoir to and into the main tributaries, remaining there until spring, then returning to the reservoir; during the two study years no spawning run up main tributaries was observed, possibly as a result of low flows; individual fish preferred certain areas to which they returned yearly (Farquhar and Gutreuter 1989). Hardy (1978) noted that this species is typically anadromous, although sometimes strictly potadromous in certain landlocked lake populations. Extent of migration by this species varies between sexes, among different populations, and among individuals within a population (Setzler et al. 1980; Hill et al. 1989).


Longevity: Gulf Coast populations of this species may live up to 12 years (Wooley and Crateau 1983).


Food habits: Goldstein and Simon (1999) listed first and second level trophic classifications for this species as invertivore/carnivore, and whole body, respectively; trophic mode: chasing; main food items in diet include fishes, squids, clams, lobsters, crabs, shrimps, and other invertebrates. Larvae feed on zooplankton, young primarily consume invertebrates, and adults are predatory on fish and larger crustaceans (Burgess 1980). Due in large part to local availability of prey items, food habits differ among areas; even so, clupeid fishes usually form a major component (Ross 2001). Diet items of juvenile fish include small crustaceans (copepods and cladocerans), midge larvae (Chironomidae), small shrimp, and fishes (larvae and juveniles) including inland (Menidia beryllina) and brook (Labidesthes sicculus) silversides, mosquitofishes (Gambusia), and threadfin (Dorosoma petenense) and gizzard (Dorosoma cepedianum) shads (Ware 1971; Van Den Avyle 1983; Matthews et al. 1992). Threadfin (Dorosoma petenense) and gizzard (Dorosoma cepedianum) shads are reported to be a main food item of sub-adults (larger than 100 mm TL) and adults, if available (Ware 1971; Minckley 1973; Matthews et al. 1988; Kilambi and Zdinak 1981). Adult fish primarily feed just after dark, and just prior to dawn (Raney 1952). Adults feed actively throughout the year, but may not eat just before and during spawning (Hill et al. 1989).


Growth: Growth rates increase along a north to south gradient as growing seasons become progressively longer (Setzler et al. 1980; Hill et al. 1989). Ware (1971) reported that fish in Florida lakes reached 170-345 mm TL after one year of growth, and 448 mm TL after two years; young grew most rapidly during the cooler months. In Apalachicola River, Florida, fish reached 168 mm TL during the first year, 330 mm TL during the second year, and 473 mm, 598 mm, 700 mm, 774 mm, 842 mm, 895 mm, 933 mm, 970 mm, 1019 mm, and 1055 mm TL during years 3-12, respectively (Wooley and Crateau 1983; Ross 2001). Fish inhabiting Tennessee reservoirs reach 175-217 mm TL in one year (Saul 1991); in Percy Priest Reservoir growth averaged 216 mm at age 1, 404 mm at age 2, and 528 mm, 625 mm, 701 mm, and 731 mm at ages 3-6, respectively (Weaver 1975; Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Morone saxatilis differs from M. chrysops (white bass; though not from striped bass x white bass hybrids) in having two elongate patches of teeth on the tongue, in contrast to a single rounded patch. They can be separated from the hybrids by their shallower body depth (depth goes into FL 4.0-5.3 times vs. 3.0-4.0 times in the hybrid) and by their shorter head relative to depth (body depth goes into HL 0.7-1.0 times vs. 1.1-1.3 times in hybrid; Williams 1976; Ross 2001). M. saxatilis X M. chrysops hybrids (wipers) are difficult to distinguish, showing intermediacy from paretnal types in basihyal tooth formation: tooth patches are broader, shorter, and closer together than in M. saxatilis and narrower, longer, and more separated than in M. chrysops when two patches are present (Waldman 1986; Sublette et al. 1990).


Host Records

Trematoda (3), Acanthocephala (1), Crustacea (2; Hoffman 1967). Monogenetic and digenetic trematodes, cestodes, acanthocephalans; ectoparasites, such as copepods, lernaeopodids, and ergasilids (Raney 1952).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Morone saxatilis supports extremely important sport and commercial fisheries (Burgess 1980). In Texas, this species has been widely stocked and maintains a significant fishery in many reservoirs, commonly replacing the previously introduced white bass (Morone chrysops; Hubbs et al 1991).



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